Last fall I bought a second freezer, purchased forty pounds of local beef, and started writing this blog. The idea wasn’t really to record every gasp of delight, which you can get elsewhere. What I wanted was to cook with all the different parts of an animal, and have a means of remembering what we’d eaten. How many times had I made something memorable and then, a few days later, had no idea how to replicate the experience? Blogging was a way to remember.
Well, the original forty pounds of meat was some fine Wagyu beef from Sweet Grass Farm, on Lopez Island. We were referred by foodie friends with a family connection to the farmers, Scott and Brigit Meyers. Not that Sweet Grass is some cult-ish place you visit secretly, uttering passwords. You can visit the farm anytime, meet the cows, and walk the pasture. In our case just a taste of Sweet Grass’ meat convinced us of its quality. So I upgraded my order to a quarter cow last fall and because of how these things work, the meat wasn’t ready until this summer.
In the meantime we dabbled with beef from other local-ish sources. We got roasts and steaks from Crown ‘S’ Ranch in the Methow Valley, which runs a meat CSA for Seattle and Wenatchee customers. We liked the farmers but thought the beef, which tastes of grain finishing, was merely decent. We sampled pot roast from Skagit River Ranch and it had delicious densely beefy flavor, and is available at farmers markets by the cut. And I contemplated but never tried beef from Sea Breeze Farm on Vashon, purveyors of some really lovely meat and dairy products. We also ate Oregon County beef from our co-op, a pastured, natural meat that tastes good and is priced fairly.
Our quarter of beef finally arrived this month, 105 pounds of young cow. The haul included scads of steaks and roasts, plus twenty-nine pounds of ground meat. The cost was about $10/lb ($6.50/lb hanging weight), considerably more than our half pig from Wooly Pigs, at $4.75/lb. So there’s definitely a cost, even buying in quantity. The paradoxical thing is that we’re eating less meat as a result of this project; many nights we’ll just incorporate a dab of ground meat into beans, tofu, or vegetables. I didn’t cook much with ground meat before, since you have no idea what you’re getting. But when it’s your animal, and using every animal part means lots of ground meat, well, there you go. I think we’re eating healthier, and the cost averages out over the year.
I’d be interested to hear what experiences others have had with local beef. Thanks to Finspot for posing the query.